John Lennon's solo catalogue, with its variety and venerability, ought to make for a worthy tribute album in the guise of a benefit CD. Instead, with a few exceptions, Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur winds up as one-dimensional as the late Beatle's beatification. It ignores the textures, the complexity — the flaws — that made Lennon the artist more interesting than Lennon the saint. The first single, Green Day's "Working Class Hero," is a tip-off: Like most of the double CD, including covers by U2, R.E.M., and the Black Eyed Peas, it's a rote retelling. We get two versions of "Imagine," two versions of "Gimme Some Truth," but no compelling reasons to listen to any of them. Christina Aguilera performs "Mother," and Avril Lavigne does "Imagine" — intriguing counterprogramming that misfires. Aguilera brings talent to the table, but omits the angst and anger that fuel the original. The punky Lavigne simply lacks the vocal chops to add anything to Lennon's signature anthem. The best offerings here are from Snow Patrol (a brooding, New Wave-like "Isolation") and Regina Spektor (an oddly off-kilter "Real Love"). Lennon's solo work can be roughly divided into the personal and the anthemic. For the most part, on Instant Karma the best attributes of both are lost in translation. — Frank Houston
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.